Syrian government forces rained barrels bombs on Aleppo Thursday, as they pressed a campaign against rebels in the northern city where dozens have been killed this week, a monitor said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said jihadist fighters executed 15 civilians in the northeastern province of Hasakeh. At least seven children were among those killed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near the town of Ras al-Ain, it said. The Observatory did not give any immediate toll for Thursday's raids on Aleppo's rebel-held districts, but said regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on some of the areas.
UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Thursday Morocco has improved its human rights record but must still work hard to shake off "old habits," such as torture. Pillay, the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Morocco in 13 years, spoke at a news conference in Rabat at the end of a four-day visit. She said Morocco had made "great strides toward the better promotion and protection of human rights," including the adoption of a new constitution in 2011. UN delegations that have visited Morocco in past years have "expressed concern over the use of torture and ill-treatment as well as the admissibility in court of confessions obtained under torture or other ill-treatment," said Pillay.
Lahore (Pakistan) (AFP) - Pakistan's prime minister Thursday demanded "immediate action" over the murder of a pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death outside a courthouse, as her husband revealed in a grisly twist that he strangled his first wife. Farzana Parveen was murdered on Tuesday outside the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against her family's wishes -- while police stood by. The brazen, brutal nature of the killing, in broad daylight in the centre of Pakistan's second largest city, has triggered outrage around the world. The attack also casts a spotlight on the country's controversial blood-money laws which allow relatives of homicide victims to forgive their perpetrators -- who in cases such as this are often also family members.
A gunman riding on the back of a motorbike shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer and his son in the southeastern city of Mukalla on Thursday, a security source said. The attack was carried out in broad daylight in the heart of the port city, capital of Hadramawt province, an Al-Qaeda stronghold, the source said. Colonel Salmin al-Obtani was the latest in a string of army and intelligence officers to be killed in hit-and-run attacks in Hadramawt. Mukalla has also been the scene of a number of spectacular attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda.
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi's disputed presidential elections ran into fresh trouble Thursday after a judge due to rule on when the results should be released had to step down from the case. High court judge Healy Potani was scheduled to start hearing the case on Thursday and then rule on Friday whether Malawi's electoral commission could be granted a 30-day extension to hold a recount. But Potani recused himself after his impartiality was challenged on the grounds that one of his brothers is a deputy chief elections officer at the electoral commission. A replacement judge Kenyatta Nyirenda took over several hours later and immediately the hearing started.
By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans stepped up their attacks on the Obama administration over a deepening Veterans Affairs healthcare delay scandal on Thursday, but House Speaker John Boehner again declined to join a growing list of lawmakers calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. At a news briefing, Boehner said he was not still convinced that Shinseki's ouster would solve the VA's problems. Instead, he sought to keep the pressure on President Barack Obama for VA scheduling abuses that covered up monthslong delays for veterans' medical care appointments. "I'm going to continue to reserve judgment on General Shinseki," Boehner said.